A natural laboratory, a National Monument: carving out a place for science in Glacier Bay, Alaska, 1879-1959.

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A natural laboratory, a National Monument: carving out a place for science in Glacier Bay, Alaska, 1879-1959.

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Beginning with John Muir's "discovery" in 1879, Glacier Bay has become a place constructed in the American imagination. In this construction of place, no single group played a more important role than scientists. While other national parks--e.g. Yellowstone and Yosemite--were greatly the products of commercial lobbies and political maneuverings, Glacier Bay National Monument (later National Park) grew out of a grass roots lobbying effort by the Ecological Society of America (ESA). Since 1879, Glacier Bay has an unbroken history of scientific study: from 1879 forward its glaciers have been regularly mapped, and from 1916 its ecological patterns have been persistently studied. Because of this long, continuous history of scientific study, Glacier Bay serves as an ideal case for the study of the interaction between place and the field sciences. This study analyzes the role played by Glacier Bay in shaping scientific practice and theory in ecology and glaciology between 1879 and 1959. At the same time, it also analyzes the impact scientists and scientific theory had on the place - defined both by physical location and by constructed social spaces. Within the overarching argument about the agency of place in shaping scientific theory, practice, and community, this dissertation makes several arguments that challenge and enhance the standing historiography on American ecology and glaciology: (1) It problematizes and challenges the standard story of the history of ecology in America told over the past quarter century, offering a more continuous view of ecological theory and practice. (2) It works toward a better understanding of field practices and how scientists defined their goals and successes in the early years of ecology and glaciology in the American context. (3) It explores the role of scientists as activists and argues that, over the period under consideration, ecologists' understanding of their role as activists was closely tied to how they thought ecology should be studied. (4) It analyzes how ecologists and glaciologists working in Glacier Bay understood the placedness of their work and how changes in their understanding of place interacted with their understanding of local versus universal knowledge.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2009. Major: History of Science and Technology. Advisors: Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, Mark E. Borrello. 1 computer file(PDF); viii, 307 pages.

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Rumore, Gina Maria. (2009). A natural laboratory, a National Monument: carving out a place for science in Glacier Bay, Alaska, 1879-1959.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/56079.

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